Thursday, March 17, 2011

This World We Live In (YA)

This World We Live In. Susan Beth Pfeffer. 2010. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 239 pages.

I'm shivering, and I can't tell if it's because something strange is going on or because of the dream I had or just because I'm in the kitchen, away from the warmth of the woodstove. It's 1:15AM, the electricity is on, and I'm writing in my diary for the first time in weeks. 

This World We Live In is the sequel to Susan Beth Pfeffer's Life As We Knew It and the dead & the gone. The novel opens at the end of April, it has almost been a full year since the asteroid collided with the moon and life forever changed. In the second novel starring Miranda Evans (and her family), life beyond the sunroom is explored more fully. In Life As We Knew It, there was a routine dullness. Since Miranda, Matt, Jon, and their mom, Laura, rarely ventured out of their two-or-three room sanctuary, there was a sameness to the end of the world. That isn't quite the case with This World We Live In. For this book is ALL about change. Everything is changing--and these changes are coming quite quickly, surprising just about everyone! Soon Miranda's world will include more people--expanding from four to eleven! Among the new people in Miranda's life are Alex and Julie Morales first introduced to readers in the dead & the gone. How will her world change? Will these changes bring hope and love to her bleak life?

This is the second time I've read the novel--the third time if you count listening to the audio book. The first time left me shocked. I couldn't feel satisfied. I couldn't feel hopeful. I couldn't feel much of anything. I needed time and space. I needed to reread the whole trilogy. I needed to see the big picture--to see if there was a big picture.

This World We Live In is a challenging read. It requires readers to care deeply and passionately about these characters, to become a part of their lives, and a part of Pfeffer's strange, cruel world. There is much to contemplate, much to discuss. Particularly when it comes to this ending. I won't go there for this review. I won't. I don't think it's fair to those who have not read the book.

While this one isn't my favorite of the trilogy, I do recommend it.

A year ago I was sixteen years old, a sophomore in high school. Matt was in his freshman year at Cornell and Jon was in middle school. Dad and Lisa had asked me to be godmother to their new baby. Mom was between book projects. I know I've gained a lot in the past year, but I woke up this morning and all I could think about was everything I've lost. No, that's not right. Not everything, everybody. Everything doesn't matter, not really. After a while you get used to being cold, and hungry, and living in the dark. But you can't get used to losing people. Or if you can, I don't want to. So many people in the past year, people I've loved, have vanished from my life. Some have died; others have moved on. It almost doesn't matter. Gone is gone. (61)

If you'd asked me a week ago what it would take for me to feel better, I would've said knowing how Dad and Lisa and the baby were, meeting a boy my own age, and running water.
Now I have all three. I guess I must feel better. (101)

"You don't have to beg here," I said. "We're happy to share."
"No one is happy to share," he said.
Alex looked down then or I looked up. I don't know how it happened, but we made eye contact, and for a moment I was drawn into his soul. I could see everything, the depth of his sorrow, his anger, his despair.
I feel sorrow and anger and despair. I don't think there's a person alive who doesn't. I sometimes feel like my sorrow and anger and despair burn inside me the way the sun used to burn on a hot July day.
But that was nothing compared to what I sensed in Alex. His sorrow, his despair was like a thousand suns, like a galaxy of suns. It physically hurt me to look into his eyes, but I couldn't break away. He turned his head first, and then he apologized, or maybe he thanked me. For Alex I think they're the same thing. (107-8)

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


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I am interested in reviewing books and audio books. This blog focuses on books written for middle grade on up (essentially 10 to a 110). I review middle grade fiction and young adult fiction (aka tween and teen).

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I read in a variety of genres including realistic fiction, historical fiction, mystery, romance, science fiction, fantasy, literary fiction, and chick lit. (I've read one western to date.)

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I am more interested in strong characters, well-written, fleshed-out, human characters. Plot is secondary to me in a way. I have to care about the characters in order to care about the plot. That being said, compelling storytelling is something that I love. I love to become absorbed in what I'm reading.

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